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UNHCR Says More CAR Refugees Entering Cameroon


The United Nations refugee agency says an increasing number of people from the Central African Republic are seeking refuge in eastern Cameroon.

Ethnic Mbororo refugees from the Central African Republic started crossing the border into Cameroon five years ago as rebels stole their cattle and kidnapped women and children for ransom.

More than 80,000 refugees now live in Cameroon, many in remote settlements more than 350 kilometers east of the capital, Yaounde. And a recent census by the U.N. refugee agency says their numbers are continuing to grow.

High Commissioner Antonio Guterres says it is a tragedy that largely goes unnoticed, and it is time the international community face up to its responsibilities to help not only the refugees but the local communities that have taken them in and are now facing shortages of classroom space and clean water.

"The host communities have meager resources," said Antonio Guterres. "They share those resources with the refugees. They have their own development problems that needs to receive much stronger solidarity from the international community."

Rebels in the Central African Republic have been fighting the government of President Francois Bozize since shortly after he toppled President Ange Felix Patasse in 2003. The United Nations says that violence has displaced more than 300,000 people.

Presidential elections are scheduled for next month. But opposition candidates, including former president Patasse, want that poll delayed because they say voter registration is incomplete and the failure to disarm rebels in the north leaves the country unprepared for a vote.

President Bozize says the election will not be delayed. After calling for elections for years, he says his political opponents are now afraid to face him before the voters.

With a continuing rebellion and political uncertainty about the vote, Guterres says it does not appear that Central African Refugees in Cameroon will be going home anytime soon.

"Peace is the key element that allows for people to be able to go back home," said Guterres. "The best solution for a refugee crisis is always to solve the political problems that allow for refugees to be able to go back home voluntarily in safety and dignity."

With Cameroon's relative peace and economic and political stability, Guterres says the country will likely remain a magnet for refugees for years to come. Along with refugees from the Central African Republic, Cameroon is also sheltering refugees from Chad, Nigeria, Liberia, Rwanda, and Burundi.

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